Shades of Nature: Settling (quietly) into the Landscape

April 30, 2012


I love working with exterior color. But most of  my projects are in the environs of the city and leafy (but dense) suburbs of Washington, D.C. (though I did have fun with a remote consult in Alaska a few years ago).  I would love to help design a house in some truly spectacular setting– like  the desert in New Mexico or something on the craggy coast of Maine. When choosing an exterior palette, I always take into consideration (first and foremost), the architecture of the dwelling. Then I look to its context– how the building is situated on a lot and what surrounds it.  Most buildings, especially houses, should settle quietly into the landscape.

I wanted to share a few examples of  structures that do this beautifully. Most of these buildings have been designed by very talented architects, for whom color is integral to design, inside and out.  And their settings are all pretty spectacular.


via Shope Reno Wharton Architects

I’m not sure what this is– perhaps a guest house?  The form is striking and the use of color understated but so effective. I love the grid pattern of the “16 over 16” windows flanking the entry (painted a strong but quiet green, similar in value to the dark shingle siding). Designed by  Shope Reno Wharton Architects .


via Dwell

This house, published in Dwell Magazine, was built on one of the outermost islands off the coast of Maine.  The client  had envisioned ” an unobtrusive abode that would blend with the local color…”  It was designed by Alex Scott Porter Design .  Aluminum cladding chosen for the harsh climate… guessing color choices were limited. Love that gray… pretty perfect.


Feldman Architecture

One of my  favorites- this beauty was designed by the San Francisco firm of Feldman Architecture .   For Feldman Architecture, “beauty is found in quiet understated forms, expressive structure, timeless materials, and carefully resolved details. The firm’s designs celebrate light-filled open spaces with a strong connection to the site and landscape.”


via Bosworth Hoedemaker

Seattle-based architect Bosworth Hoedemaker was tasked to transform a former concrete-block boathouse, on the shores of Hood Canal,  into a functional guest house/ boathouse. The result is so striking- the strong simple forms (square windows and  blocks of gray sliding doors) are softened  and balanced by the color of the interior (simple marine plywood).


photo Catherine Tighe

Restrained use of color by New York-based architect Deborah Berke for this Litchfield County, Connecticut “farmhouse”.


via Elle Decor

Elle Decor featured the bucolic (Wisconsin !)  getaway of New York designer Richard McGeehan .  The article states that ” The Shaker-like simplicity … appealed to his rigorous aesthetic. Another draw was the row of windows along the building’s 44-foot length, which provides stunning views of the surrounding landscape.”


via Rehkamp Larson Architects

The Minneapolis firm of Rehkamp Larson Architects designed this modern farmhouse. Strong but simple form and color. Iconic.


And here is the ” Russell House”” in Palm Springs. Modernist with orange elements repeating and balancing the strong forms of the desert landscape.


via Mathis Interiors

Ending the post with this image… have no idea who took this stunning photo (let me know if you do) or where this is…Nova Scotia perhaps? Guessing neither an architect nor designer was involved here. And “mother nature” surely had something to do with that worn blue/green color.  Simply beautiful.




Reveal: Out-the-back-door

April 20, 2012


I have an “iffy” relationship with my “out-the-back-door” world.  It’s nice.  I’m fortunate enough to live on top of a hill– a really lovely, private and woodsy sloping lot .  My deck is elevated with a treehouse view of towering old oaks and a mature stand of mountain laurel and dogwoods. I’m in Virginia, with an agreeable temperate climate. It is nice — but just some of the time. Which is why I’m not quite sold on the “outdoor living room”  idea. But I’m experimenting with it. : )




First, there is my fickle relationship with the hibiscus plant. In Virginia these would be classified as annuals– showy, exuberant  beauties that are enjoyed during a short summer season. I love them. I buy them every year with high hopes but usually watch them wither and fade away by July.  But I try– so  last week I carted a pair of lovelies off the lot at Home Depot, determined to make them thrive.  Of course, what caught my eye was the gorgeous egg-yolk-yellow color of the blooms (with a brilliant red center)– a new variety. Triple swoon. Perfect.  Form over function every time. : )



A snap after a rain shower today ~perfect~



And by late this afternoon, three blooms had unfurled…shockingly pretty (no, Photoshop not involved)!



So had to capture things at their most perfect because I ‘m guessing the blooms will drop in like 3 days– total peak (MiracleGro -enhanced), including the purple ‘May Night’ salvia that wintered over in its clay pot this year. Color trifecta.



And it’s also time to enjoy my new sunken “living room” on the lower level of the deck… just off the truck from Ballard Designs and unpacked.  LOVING IT so far.  But not sure how it will truly hold up with the onslaught of sticky tree sap, rain and coffee/wine drips. When I first experienced these sorts of outdoor spaces while living in San Diego and Sydney, they seemed so sensuous and indulgent.  Rugs and cushy sofas outdoors? Well it made sense there because this stuff stayed outside year round w/ little rain. We will see. But for now, I’m enjoying morning coffee and evening vino out here.




The colors all came together… a dark green market umbrella, neutral cushions on the furniture, an old outdoor Safavieh rug in an over-scaled red medallion pattern and a pop of color in pillows (World Market).



My girlfriends have christened the new space with Pinot Grigio and gossip.  And the cat approves.  All is colorful, waterproof, blooming and good in my little corner of the world… today.




photo via Mik Caravan



Happy April weekend!



Beverley Hills Beauties

April 16, 2012




Spring has come a few weeks early here in Virginia.  It is the most beautiful time of year in my little hilly and woodsy neighborhood.




Azaleas and dogwoods thrive under old towering oaks that make the soil acid-rich.  The  mature azaleas are often massed together and the pink, coral and red blooms are real show-stoppers.




I had to also snap some of my favorite little Beverley Hills cottages with gardens at their best.








This shady enclave of older homes in Alexandria, Virginia is just north of Old Town, west of Del Ray and  only 15 minutes outside of Washington, D.C.  And we’ve got a stellar “walk score”.


Come take a stroll and get a healthy dose of ~pink~




DC Design House 2012, Part 2

April 12, 2012



This chinoiserie fabric {Cowtan and Tout} was the inspiration for the formal dining room at the DC Design House 2012 designed by Shazalynn Cavin-Winfey.  The designer gave traditional mahogany chairs a coat of blue paint to update their look. Pretty!





The atmosphere is formal but dreamlike- the room is suffused with a warm “peaches and cream ” glow.  Walls are covered with a creamy Farrow and Ball “Dragged Paper” and trim is painted out in a custom mix of Farrow and Ball’s ‘Tallow’ and ‘Fowler Pink’.







The warm tones are balanced by energizing accents of coral and blue. This beautiful watercolor on rice paper that hangs above the mantel is by Richmond artist, Ruth Bolduan.





Artist Ruth Bolduan


Though formal, the designer describes the room as “happy, sophisticated and youthful”.  Her favorite detail is the custom corner banquettes covered in a peach velvet.





A pair of framed  antique  Gracie wallpaper panels are “exquisite precursors to what might have been”.





The DC Design House 2012 opens to the public Saturday, April 14.   Go while the azaleas are still in bloom!



Shazalynn Cavin-Winfrey {SCW Interiors}



Marika Meyer at the DC Design House 2012

April 11, 2012



Yesterday,  the DC Design House 2012 opened its doors to “press” for a preview. It was a glorious spring day with azaleas at their peak in the green environs of Spring Valley, Washington, D.C. Farrow and Ball is a sponsor this year, so I was looking forward to seeing how designers worked their magic with these complex subdued paints and papers.


One of my favorite rooms was “The Morning Room” by designer Marika Meyer.



photo Angie Seckinger Photography


In the designer’s words,  “Enlivened  by pops of indigo and citrine, grounded by quieter “Old World” creams and grays, the light -filled Morning Room simultaneously calms and uplifts…”




… “Our subdued palette starts with Farrow and Ball’s Dragged Papers gracing the walls and continues in the subtle gray pattern of the linen drapery {Quadrille} framing the floor to ceiling windows.”




” A stunning Oushak rug {Stark Carpet New Oriental Juliette Collection} that has similar ethereal tones but also punches of bright blue and citrine makes the space at once timeless and fresh.”




photo Angie Seckinger Photography


A large Robert Rea abstract balances the view of the outside terrace.




More color play of indigo and citrine against a backdrop of quiet gray.



photo Angie Seckinger Photography


A striking lattice -patterned Stroheim fabric lines the back of custom built-ins.




photo Angie Seckinger Photography


The effect is ethereal and hushed with glorious light bringing the subtle soft tones of Farrow and Ball neutrals to life.



More posts to come on other favorite rooms at The DC Design House 2012. It  runs from April 14- May 13.  Don’t miss it!


Photographs 1,3,5 and 6 via Angie Seckinger Photography